Let’s Get Active About Our Heart Health!

Ischemic heart disease or disease of the vessels that supply your heart with blood and oxygen is the second leading cause of death in Canada. It is the most common type of cardiovascular disease. Some people think that it is just a disease “older people” get; others picture a man clutching his chest, as often seen in movies, when they imagine what a heart attack might look like. This is in fact, not always true.

Your heart is made up of muscle, and its job is to pump blood around the entire body. Think about if you are running a marathon; after some time, you get tired and you want to stop and rest. Once you rest, you can go on. The heart, on the other hand, cannot do this. It is pumping blood 24 hours a day to keep you alive.

The heart is sometimes unable to do this because the arteries providing the heart with blood flow and oxygen get blocked. When blood cannot reach the different parts of the heart, a section of the heart gets tired and will not be able to function properly or be able to provide adequate blood to the various organs in the body. This is then felt like a pain in your chest. Some people, however, do not feel the same type of pain, such as people with diabetes, or those who have had a heart transplant. Even women and men tend to have different types of pain!

Heart disease can impact people of various ages, genders, and ethnicities, although some may be at higher risk than others, such as those with Diabetes. In terms of its presentation, it varies widely across different groups.
It impacts men and women differently in terms of its presentation, treatment, and recovery. In fact, many research studies are ongoing, investigating exactly how different a heart attack presents in women versus men. Some risk factors you are born with and cannot change (e.g., age, gender, family history, certain ethnicities such as Indigenous, African, or South Asian), and other factors are things we can change by altering some habits and/or seeking help (e.g., high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, tobacco/excessive alcohol use, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, depression, and stress).

The good news is you can reduce your risk of acquiring ischemic heart disease. Taking care of yourself is an essential part of this process, like eating well and maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular daily exercise (≥150 minutes per week), getting adequate sleep, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol use, and practicing self-care and maintaining a positive mental health.

In conclusion, take the stairs instead of the elevator, avoid those sugary treats, do not immediately sit down after you eat, go for regular walks (at least 30-minutes) around your home or within your apartment/condo building, and do these types of preventative strategies with your family and friends. This will improve your mood and keep you motivated. We are better together than we are alone. Help your friends and family live longer lives with you, and with healthier hearts.